Ok now several national polls have come out today following last Thursday's first Republican nomination TV debate(s) on Fox and Trump did not fall. He still holds a massive lead over his rivals but his climb seems to have stalled on several of the polls into roughly that 24% range. Rubio and Fiorina are up, that was also what I expected, but Ben Carson up? Whats with that? And Ted Cruz is up? Did they watch the same debate or what is going on?
Ok. I did once again think that the Megyn Kelly comments were going too far and Trump may see a big fall, he didn't, but its early going for that, some of the polling was done before the big flap was fully on TV over the weekend news coverage. Nonetheless, Trump is still on top. And now we do have to take it seriously, and consider the math. What if...
What if Trump is the nominee for Republicans? What if Trump runs as an Independent. Can he win?
If Trump becomes the Republican nominee, he can't win the national vote. His support is a protest vote on the side where some with strong political views feel that the government has failed their wishes. These are Tea Party type beliefs and they want Hispanics deported, a huge wall, repealing of Obamacare, limits to the Supreme Court, abortion made illegal etc etc etc. Those positions do have a lot of support in the Tea Party edge of US politics, but now look at the Democratic side, the liberal side of the aisle. They are NOT angry at Washington or Obama or the Democrats or Hillary Clinton. They want MORE of what Obama has tried, they see the Republicans as obstructionists and they'd want essentially all that Hillary has to offer in the next term. So the protest part is mostly only among conservatives, not among liberals. If liberals or progressives are disappointed, they only are so in the way that not more has been done, and they see that Hillary is even a better solution to those issues than Obama had been who so often took centrist/moderate views.
With this, yes, Trump could win the nomination. He now stands at 24% nationally and Jeb Bush and Scott Walker are at half that. Trump actually polled better than Jeb (or Marco Rubio) in Florida, which would be catastrophic for Jeb's campaign if he can't win his home state. In the latest polls from the first two states, Iowa and New Hampshire, Trump is also well ahead. Walker (and Huckabee) desperately need to win Iowa, meanwhile Jeb Bush (and Chris Christie) need to desperately win New Hampshire. If polls stay as they are now, Trump will come out of the first two contests having won both. And in the past no candidate who won both of the first two states, has lost the nomination fight.
Note that the more candidates stay in the race, and the more there are moderates to prevent one from gaining a lead (ie Bush, Rubio, Kasich, Christie etc all eating from each other's support) the stronger is Trump's opportunity. He has a low ceiling even as that is gradually rising. He can't get into a two-way fight against a Bush or Walker or Rubio etc. But if there are 9 or 10 running by Iowa and New Hampshire, then 24% can rather easily win it, and the longer those rival stay in the race, the better for Trump's chances inside the party. Citizens United means that money is no longer the reason to drop out either, as long a you can find a Billionaire to prop up your brand of Republican.. And obviously Trump would self-finance so he doesn't even count. The fastest way for Trump to be eliminated is if the party falls in love with one candidate and that one picks up the majority of the support by say South Carolina. The worst for the party and best for Trump is if the party continues with ten or so viable candidates where no others can break 15% or 20%. Then Trump can continue to win with his low ceiling.
So its now quite conceivable that Trump could win the Republican nomination. I don't say its most likely, but he could. And then lets consider the match-up. Obviously there is already polling where Hillary beats Trump massively, more so than any other Republican rival. But I want to do a bit of analysis of why. Both Hillary and Trump have big negatives. But Hillary's negatives are miniscule within the Democratic party support. Trump's negatives are huge inside Republicans (half say they can't vote for him). So as there are more Democrat voters than Republican; and there will be a female surge because Hillary is first woman candidate and Trump has heavily alienated female voters (the Republican base support is already more male than female) and Trump scores 85% negatives among Hispanics after the Mexicans are Rapists nonsense, and those Hispanics already trend strongly Democratic, a head-to-head is a landslide for Hillary and the Democrats take both the Senate and the House.
But lets consider a 3-way race. What if Trump breaks away from the party and runs as an independent. If he ran towards the 'center' where the conventional wisdom says the winning margins are in elections, the most 'centrist' candidate who can win over most of the 'independent voters' tends to win - the Trump runs into all those hassles of the voters he's pissed off. He can't win there. But what of the Right Wing extreme? Break away WITH the Tea Party?
This gets interesting. So lets take Pew's latest study of US political affiliation. When the undecideds are allocated evenly, then it becomes 24% Republican, 42% Independent and 34% Democrat. Note that in terms of actual voting behavior the nation is verly close to evenly split, the liberal side slightly ahead, so if we allocate the independents to match approximately the last election, to get 48% Republicans and 52% Democrats (and this would now be very close to how Hillary polls against Bush, Walker, Rubio etc when she tends to have about a 5 point lead), it means about 24 of the 42 percent of the Independents lean Republican and obviously 18 lean Democratic (makes sense, the Republican party is more hated, so more conservatives would select 'independent' as their affiliation but still vote conservative).
So lets use this model:
24% are Republicans including Tea Party
24% are Independents who lean Republican
18% are Independents who lean Democratic
34% are Democrats
Now if the Republican nominee is a true conservative like Scott Walker then Trump doesn't have much room to take more than the Tea Party and he'd be crushed in third place maybe getting 20% of the national vote, Walker would finish second at about 28% and Hillary wins at about 52% of the vote. Remember, 18% of the Independents lean Democratic and a firebrand right-wing abortion ending union busting minorities hating Scott Walker or similar candidate would never appeal to these. So Scott Walker or similar Huckabee or whoever would then split whatever is left of 48% conservative where some women would bleed to Hillary's crushing election victory.
BUT, consider the opposite. What if the GOP race becomes somewhat polarized, Trump vs a moderate like Jeb Bush. Now it gets interesting. A moderate could find appeal in the middle and would not appeal to the extreme right wing. So now lets throw in some wicked curve-balls. First, lets assume Trump gets another conservative popular candidate to join him. Looking at the bizarre bounce that Dr Ben Carson got from the debate (I cannot fathom why he was seen to have been one of the winners) or take Huckabee or Cruz or Fiorina, take someone who is also a conservative but not traditional mid-ground 'very electable' candidate that appeals to the moderates of the Republicans so not Rubio or Walker or Kasich or Christie. Make the Trump ticket now 'double down' on the extreme conservative (Huckabee) or the wacky (Carson) or the business competence (Fiorina) or Tea Party (Cruz). But lets take the 'most beneficial' of those, lets say its the strong third-place finisher who appealed to 15% of the Republican voters.
Lets say its Carson for the sake of argument, the cooky outsider ticket. Trump-Carson. There is no room for Bush to try to flank these on the 'right wing' and they see much of that vote is now 'lost'. Bush would have to try really hard to get the centrist vote, moderates, so lets say Bush picks Kasich as his VP. Now we have a Bush-Kasich 'moderate' ticket that is appealing to gays, to Hispanics, doesn't deny global warming etc. A rather clean break from the Tea Party.
That is still not enough, but now, Hillary? She is currently pushing to near-Socialist VERY 'progressive' liberal positions on anything from taxes to gun control all sorts of 'freebies' like paid maternity leave, free college, etc. Now... a liberal Democrat will love all that but those Independents who only 'lean Democratic' would become alarmed that what if Hillary will wreck the economy and be like Jimmy Carter. With now TWO conservative tickets - of incredibly high funding - attacking her - Trump because he is now the 'conservative' and Bush because he can't steal from Trump, he has to steal from Hillary.
Now we get an interesting dynamic. Hillary will see erosion in her support mainly from the Independents who lean Democratic. With the 'other' extreme conservative to 'balance' the wackiness and arrogance of Trump, the Trump-Carson ticket becomes far more acceptable for conservatives who wouldn't vote for Trump alone. And Bush-Kasich clearly are Republicans In Name Only, pandering to the middle and abandoning most 'important' conservative positions from expelling all illegals to outlawing abortion to ending gays in the military to ending Common Core in education.
So now Hillary loses most of the left-leaning Independents. Most of the conservative-leaning Independents will go to Bush-Kasich but Trump-Carson pick up a significant minority of those. And Trump cleans up most of the Republicans.
We could have a situation where Hillary only holds her 34% of true Democrats. Bush-Kasich in the middle take 30% of the Independents and Trump takes most of the Republicans and enough of the right-leaning Independents to get 36% of the vote!
So mathematically it is plausible but not very likely. Note a few things to further squirrel this situation. First, if Bernie Sanders runs a long and energetic campaign with enthusiastic support as he has now started, once he is out, its possible many Sanders supporters will be demotivated to bother to vote at all. While Hillary should see a big surge her being the first woman on the top of the ticket, its still possible that overall, the Democratic enthusiasm is down a lot, partly as Hillary is so wooden (and old), partly as the Sanders campaign could create that disappointment where many left-wing loyalists really preferred Sanders. Remember, Democratic voters are far more fickle and their support is more volatile. Republican voters are more loyal and reliable.
Then take the same with Bush. He doesn't inspire anyone or anything (and Kasich is another boring technocrat). The mainstream Republican moderate vote could be suppressed from the levels it was with say Romney last time.
But the most loyal, most activist, most fervent voters are the conservative Tea Party wing, and now, for the first time they would have 'their' candidate. Its very possible that Tea Party turnout is exceptionally high. That scenario could bring the numbers to something like 32 Hillary, 28% Bush and 40% Trump. Note, as Trump has nationally something about 60% poisonous image, this is just about the ceiling of how far he can go. But that gives now a considerable margin already between Trump and the 2 rivals.
If Trump runs as an independent, he could win. I am sure he's done this math and sees the rough outline of how it could go. It would be absolutely essential for Bush or another moderate (Christie, Kasich, Pataki) to run as the main Republican nominee so that Trump can collect most of the conservative vote. Then it would be a question of how much could Hillary bleed to Bush. Its extremely likely that even in a 3 way race Hillary gets to 45% or more, and then there is no way for Trump to win. He would need Hillary to be off and for Bush to do a heroic, but just not good enough job of stealing enough, but not too much, of Hillary's vote, so that Trump finishes with more votes....
This analysis was done just on the overall 'national' math, not in any way attempting to consider Trump running as 3rd party in any individual state. In this scenario, a Bush-Kasich ticket would almost certainly win Florida and Ohio, for example, and so forth. Its not one election counting all the votes, its 51 separate elections (50 states and the District of Columbia). And that would be yet another complication.
But I wanted to post this out there, as I tend to look at things from a 'statistical' angle and yes, there is math that says if its a 3-way race, Trump could win it. That only works if there is a moderate Republican and he/she steals votes enough to push Hillary below 40% But in that scenario, Trump could be the next President. And looking at the wild and wacky of this year so far, we cannot rule that out, even as it is highly unlikely.
A far more likely scenario is that whoever the Republicans nominate, Hillary wins by double-digits and takes back the Senate, regardless of whether Trump is in it or not. The main question is, can Hillary's coat-tails also bring to the Democrats the House. The way these 17 Repblican candidates now pander to the nutty edge of the party and commit to lunatic positions, only strengthens Hillary's position. Not to mention the TV ads that will run where Marco Rubio proclaims that Hillary is the most experienced candidate of either party...
Ok those are my thoughts today, still bewildered in the polling results coming in after the first debate(s). Carson up? Who woulda thunk it.